Retailers used to be able to lean on the stability of brick-and-mortar stores to provide a satisfactory customer experience. When a customer walked into a physical store, they knew exactly what to expect and were rewarded with instant gratification and the ability to take their purchases home the same day. Since the rise of the digital age, technology is shaping how customers purchase from retailers, and the customer experience is fundamentally different online.
According to Gartner, customer experience is defined as “the customer’s perceptions and related feelings caused by the one-off and cumulative effect of interactions with a supplier’s employees, channels, systems and products.” At a physical store, a retailer maintains control of the overall shopping experience by training staff, creating a pleasing shopping environment and streamlining the check-out process. With a digital storefront, retailers can only influence their customers’ experience through user-interface enhancements and supply chain improvements. This makes supply chain operations more important than ever.
Improving the Customer Experience
Digital shoppers are expecting more and more from their online shopping experience. These final mile capabilities will help supply chains improve the end customers’ experiences:
• Flexibility – Customers want the ability to choose the service type they need. By allowing customers to self-serve at checkout by picking the shipping time and rate, companies can give their customers additional flexibility. Choosing the mode helps shoppers customize their experience.
• Speed – Getting products quickly and when desired is becoming more important as 2-day delivery becomes the industry norm. Designating when the product will arrive helps customers plan ahead and allows them to be more self-sufficient. It’s important to shorten the lead time by processing orders quickly and working with trusted carriers to deliver products on time.
• Free Shipping – Adding the option for free shipping is a great way to improve customer experience and earn customer loyalty and their repeat business. Free shipping can come with longer lead times or minimum order amounts to reduce costs for the seller. For companies that don’t want to offer free shipping year-round, offering it as a promotion during the holiday shopping season can be a great advertising tool.
• Tracking – Customers everywhere are demanding tracking capabilities. In order for customers to have confidence that their product has shipped and will arrive on time, a standard tracking feature needs to be implemented. These features allow customers to request or view updates in real-time.
• Alerts – In addition to tracking capabilities, up-to-date alerts keep customers’ expectations realistic when unforeseen events take place in the supply chain. Customers appreciate alerts on weather delays and other interruptions so that they can react proactively to late deliveries. Emailing and texting updates when there has been a disruption in the delivery plan shows customers that you respect their time and are doing everything in your power to rectify the situation.
Customer Experience is Important for All Businesses
These attributes are especially important for e-commerce companies processing online orders but can be equally important for brick-and-mortar retailers. When a customer walks in the doors, they expect that their experience of purchasing products in-store will be quick and efficient. If a product isn’t in stock, they will expect it to be available for quick order and pickup. Customer expectations are rising as some e-commerce retailers like Amazon perfect the online shopping experience.
As e-commerce now makes up a total of 17% of all retail sales in the USA, retailers need to put their focus on improving their supply chains in order to win and retain business. According to EFT, “Today’s connected consumers demand both choice and flexibility when it comes to receiving their online orders – and will not hesitate to move loyalty if they encounter unsatisfactory delivery options.” This means that if a company doesn’t put a significant emphasis on improving the delivery experience for the customer, that customer will find it easy to move their business over to a competitor that does.
In order to keep customers coming back, technology needs to be implemented to offer customers choice and tracking capabilities. With the help of a robust transportation management system like Kuebix TMS, retailers can offer their customers this level of flexibility and control directly from their own websites. To read more about how Kuebix integrates with e-commerce and quoting platforms, click here.